Bringing her knowledge home

Shaghek Manjikian holds a sign reading "Proud"

When Shaghek Manjikian was in fourth grade in Syria, she had to complete an assignment about where she saw herself in the next 10 to 15 years. She wrote that she wanted to be a lawyer to stand up for people and to be their voice.
“I was told I should take life less seriously,” she laughs. “But I’m so happy I didn’t listen to that advice.”
She is now completing a Master of Laws degree at the University of Minnesota Law School under a grant from the Fulbright Program.
Manjikian was born and raised in Syria. She received her bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Aleppo, but then civil war broke out.
“When you live in a war zone, you become just a number,” Manjikian says.
She began to write about her experiences and the people in her village as a way to humanize the conflict.
“At the same time, it was important for me to find some happy endings to these stories,” Manjikian says. “Just to say, even if we’re going to war, still we can find ways to live, succeed, love, and laugh.”
Her favorite piece is about how her hometown was seized and her family had to move to another city. She wrote how the people in the village are like birds, and how in the end, the sun will rise.
Eventually Manjikian moved to Armenia, where she holds dual citizenship, to go to the American University of Armenia for her master’s degree. There, she had the opportunity to work with nongovernmental organizations on peacebuilding, human rights issues, and social inclusion of refugees.
Manjikian says Armenia was a “kind mother” for her after she was forced to leave her home, so she wanted to do something to help Armenia. She ended up applying to the Fulbright Program.
“Having quality education can be one of the best options,” she says. “The connections, the knowledge, the practical experience here, I can use it to pay back Armenia.”
As part of her program, Manjikian is specializing in business law. She is particularly interested in alternative dispute resolution, where businesses can settle disputes without going to court. 
The opportunity to focus on arbitration is a big part of why she wanted to come to the University of Minnesota Law School. But she also appreciates the variety of courses she can take here.
“I can choose courses related to arbitration and business law, but at the same time, I can also choose courses related to human rights,” Manjikian says “I don't think these days, a good lawyer will only have knowledge in one area and just be limited to that area.”
Manjikian believes that it’s important to share everything she’s learning.
“All the knowledge and information I’m gaining here, I don’t want to just keep them for me,” she says. “I want to share this knowledge and information. The more people who have the knowledge, the better we’ll be able to serve our country.”
This story appeared in its original form at M Global.